Toasted: Unusual But Familiar Options

Toasted: Simple, but custom sandwiches

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Oct. 17, 2013 . We are resurrecting it as a part of our summerlong food truck series. Prices may have changed.

 It's almost impossible to miss the bright red and shiny Toasted truck in Hartford, but if you do, just follow the blasting reggae music. The mobile restaurant selling pressed and toasted sandwiches in Bushnell Park and other greater Hartford stops is a new venture for local restaurateurs Debra and Khen Raviv, who previously owned Mediza in West Hartford Center.

The couple's journey from a full-service eatery to a food truck had several stops along the way. After closing Mediza in 2009, Debra Raviv, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef who also formerly owned The Frog and the Peach in Canton, became the director of Hartford Public Schools' Culinary Arts Academy, on the campus of Weaver High School.

A year later, the Raviv family packed up and moved to Khen's native Israel so that the couple's three children could experience their father's culture. While in Israel, the couple began working on the business plan for their truck and finally launched the eatery in May 2013, once they had returned home.

"When we moved back to the U.S., we wanted a concept in the food business that was fun, quick service and sort of the next generation," Debra said. "[Trucks] have been around in big cities and we loved the whole vibe. We thought it was a great way to test-market our product."

At Toasted, the menu is simple but customizable: Sandwiches, at $6.95, start with a base of fresh Mozzicato Bakery bread in white or wheat varieties (Udi's gluten-free bread is available for an extra $2.) Customers choose one or more housemade sauces ? chipotle or garlicky mayo, pesto, balsamic glaze, mustards, sweet chili or classic and hot relishes. Next comes a choice of four cheeses and such meats as roasted turkey, pastrami, Genoa salami, corned beef, buffalo chicken or Black Forest ham. Tomatoes, spinach and banana peppers are on hand for vegetable additions.

There are also eight pre-designed signature sandwiches for easy ordering. The Hartford, with turkey, fontina, chipotle mayo, tomato and spinach, is a best-seller, along with the multi-meat South End: ham, turkey, bacon, garlicky mayo, pepperjack and spinach.

The Garden of Eden, a take on Caprese with the addition of spinach, pesto and balsamic drizzle, is named after one of the couple's two daughters, as is the Queen Izabella grilled cheese that has four cheeses and tomatoes. The Helen of Troy, with pastrami, corned beef, provolone, Russian dressing and sauerkraut, is named for their son.

The signature sandwiches make up 80 percent of the truck's sales, Debra said, with 20 percent of customers choosing to make their own creations. "You're not limited. You can have any meat, cheese, [sauce,]...if we have it, we'll always do it for the customers."

The truck also sells sides of Rick's Picks pickles and bags of chips; fresh-fruit smoothies with yogurt ($3.75); daily baked goods; and even Nathan's hot dogs, served chopped with condiments as a snack ($2.75) or pressed between bread as a "toast" for $4. The pickles have been particularly popular, Debra said, earning a cult following by themselves.

"Our concept is fun, simple," she said, adding that the truck's price point allows customers to get a sandwich, side and drink for less than $10.

The Ravivs have bigger plans for the truck and its associated brand. They're working to find a space for a brick-and-mortar shop in Hartford and would like to eventually expand the business across the state, possibly as franchises. At the moment, they're diversifying their stops, bringing sandwiches to UConn football games at Rentschler Field and soccer games at Central Connecticut State University, and planning ahead for future festivals and other events. The truck is also available for parties and corporate events.

At Bushnell Park, they've developed a "great relationship" with city workers, Debra said, who frequent the truck for lunches and snacks. On "Toasted Tuesdays," they'll give away T-shirts and other merchandise, and on "Wacky Wednesdays," the 25th customer to the truck receives his or her order on the house. Toasted plans to operate through the winter, and may potentially add soup or chili to the menu in the cold months.

Though the truck business has its own unique challenges, including its tight work space, Debra says she finds it easier to operate than a full restaurant.

"This has less going on, easier to manage and control," she said. "[But] I think it requires a lot of organization. Once you leave wherever you're keeping your truck, you're gone for the day. Everything on board is all you have."

As Toasted moves toward growth and expansion, the business maintains a straightforward philosophy. "We want to show that a simple sandwich can really be great," Debra said.

>>The Toasted truck parks at various locations throughout the week. To find the truck at its daily stops, follow the business on Facebook or Twitter. Information: 855-558-6278,

 Look for a profile of a new food truck each week through summer in Thursday's CTNow section, and follow the series, with photos and video, at

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